A New Focus

July 4, 2014

As you can see by the new header for the site, I’ll be changing the focus of the Ed Tech Journeys blog, from leadership and technology, to the teacher’s path.

At no time in my life has teaching been under such pressure. To me, teaching is more than a job, it’s been a calling. Education has always been about teaching the whole child, heart and mind. The great teachers and coaches I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life have always made me feel special, connected, and loved. They encouraged me, and nurtured me; as they’ve done with all their students.

But times have changed and we’re in the midst of downsizing the educational workforce, while adding the demands of high stakes testing, the Common Core Curriculum, new professional evaluation processes, more mainstreamed students, more paperwork, more angry parents, and more professional development with initiatives from anti-bullying to new technology. Stress levels are at an all-time high. Even the best teachers in the best schools are feeling the weight of an educational environment that is permeated by a culture of scarcity, a fear-based system of accountability, union demonizing, and teacher bashing. Add a growing number of students with emotional, language, and behavioral challenges and it isn’t hard to see why nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the field within their first five years.

We can do better. We can maintain teaching as a path with heart without abandoning academic standards. In fact, the research shows that it’s a teacher’s personal attributes, ’soft’ skills, and presence; not their IQ, that makes the greatest positive impact on student achievement. So, by focusing less time on the external elements of teaching, and more time on the inner life and well being of the teacher, we can create classrooms that produce academic success AND nurture our students’ personal growth and special gifts.

This blog will be the first of several endeavors I will launch to support teachers as they walk the path to mastery. If you’re one of those on the front lines feeling the pressure, hang in there. What you do matters! It’s important…and so are you!

Sign Up to receive free whispers.


whispers from your inner teacher

June 30, 2014

The classroom is a challenging place, and it’s easy to find yourself discouraged, overwhelmed, and stressed out. You might even think about tossing in the towel now and then. There’s got to be something easier.

Sometimes all you need to do to make things better is listen to your own voice; the one that’s always there, patiently sharing its wisdom with you. I’ll send you an occasional whisper so that you spend less time frustrated and stressed; and more time teaching from the heart, loving life, and changing the world.

Whispers are free, inspirational reminders from your inner teacher to keep you moving forward.

You have a purpose. You have a special gift. You are necessary, and your work is important. The world, and your students, need that one gift that you have.

I know you’re ready. All the wisdom you need is within you. Choose to listen.

Sign Up to receive free whispers.


The Calling

June 18, 2014

Image

 

I’m back after several years of an amazing journey. Welcome my friends. I hope you are all prospering, and that you’re letting your gifts shine bright in this world. There are lot’s of changes coming to this blog, but I want to offer you an excerpt from my latest book, “A Path With Heart: The Inner Journey to Teaching Mastery.” I hope you enjoy it, and I hope we get to re-connect soon. With gratitude, Pete

The Calling

Consciously, or unconsciously, when you chose a career in teaching, you chose a ‘calling,’ a ‘path with heart;’ for teaching is an invitation to a world of possibility… for your students, and if you’re open to it, for yourself. Though it may sound grandiose, it’s no less true, that who you are, your personality and character, are at the root of good teaching; for teaching is about big things, not little. And it’s by turning your own promise into practice that you’re able to unlock the potential of your students, and make a difference in the world.

Human beings are born with hearts that yearn for meaning. We want our lives to count for something, and our daily work to provide us with a life, as well as living. The classic story of three stonecutters helps us see that the true impact of our work goes far beyond the day to day tasks that consume so much of our time and energy.

One day a traveler came across three stonecutters working in a quarry. Each one was chipping away at a block of stone. Curious, he asked the first stone cutter what he was doing. “What? Are you blind?” the stone cutter shouted, “Can’t you see, I’m cutting this stupid piece of stone.”

The man walked near the second stonecutter, who seemed a little happier and asked him the same question. The stonecutter replied, “I’m cutting this block of stone so that the mason can build a straight wall.”

Finally, he approached the third stonecutter, who seemed to be the happiest of the three, and asked him what he was doing. “I’m building a cathedral,” he replied with a smile.

Like the third stonecutter, knowing that the work you do can make a positive impact on a child’s life, and sometimes, through that child, on the world writ large, makes your personal sacrifice and toil worthwhile. As an educator, you have the opportunity to build cathedrals, not just chip stones.

Sign Up to receive free whispers.

pete


Ed Tech Journeys Status

July 26, 2010

Below, find an excerpt from a chapter of one of my writing projects, “Zen and the Art of Teaching”. “My First Day” takes place in January of 1974. I offer this brief look at the beginning of my teaching career to my daughter Kate who will be student teaching this Fall, and to all aspiring educators who will someday step forward to lead their students on the incredible journey of learning.

If you enter the profession realizing that you are not just teaching a subject; but you are also teaching students; if you can grasp that you have as much to learn as your students do; if you can persevere through days like my first day, which was pretty much a blueprint for the rest of my horrible first year…

…then you will have taken the first, and maybe the most difficult, step on the path to professional mastery. There will be many lessons to learn as you progress through your career; but remember, you are not alone; many of us have shared your pain. If you open to self-reflection and learning; things will get  better.

My First Day

From “Zen and the Art of Teaching”

Pete Reilly

I remember vividly the forest of adolescent hands in the air, waving urgently at me, trying to get my attention during my first day in the classroom. It was mid-year and they had completely routed the young, female teacher who had preceded me. She had quit over the Christmas break.

I stood looking out at the class, pleased to be in charge, pleased to be in the front of the room, with all the authority. I called on one particularly harmless looking kid with jet-black hair that swung down to cover one eye and the side of his face.

He smiled nicely and asked, “Can I go to the bathroom?”

I knew this was a ruse. “No.” I replied.

“But I really have to go!” he said plaintively, clearly playing to his audience of peers.

“No” I repeated. “You had time to go between classes.” I was no fool. I knew the rules.

“But I Mrs. Rogers kept us after for a few minutes and my locker was stuck. I didn’t have time to go!”

I remained tough, “Not my problem. Just hold it for the rest of class!”

The class was clearly happy and entertained. I was not savvy enough to see that the longer this conversation went on, the more foolish I looked.

“Well, I have to go and I don’t think I can make it to the end of class!”

Now, how the Hell did I get myself into this, I thought to myself. There were giggles in the back of the class. This seemingly harmless student now pressed his advantage, effortlessly making an ass out of me.

“I have to go number one!”

Outright laughter from the class. I didn’t like being laughed at, “I said No, that’s enough! I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

I moved to call on one of the other hands that were waving to get my attention. I had gotten myself in a bit of a mess and it was time to get out; only I wasn’t really in control.

“Well if I go in my pants, then it’ll be your fault. You’re the one that’s gonna have to explain it to the Principal and my mother!”

Was it possible that I was making a mistake? What if he really did have to go? There truly wasn’t much time between classes. Why would he be so persistent about this if it wasn’t a real issue for him? Was it worth taking the risk with this student? This bathroom pass thing really was a bunch of bull anyway. There was silence in the classroom as I pondered Solomon-like in the front of the class. And then I broke down and blurted out in an exasperated tone,

“Okay! Go to the bathroom; but hurry up and get back here! No stopping anywhere.”

There, I had shown magnanimity and mercy, even though I didn’t have to. I looked into the face of my nemesis (what I could see of it) and I knew immediately I had been had. He had a vicious grin on his face, not the thankful look of one who had been saved from an embarrassing accident in class. He stood up, looked at the class victoriously, almost as if saying,

“Piece of cake! Too easy! We’re going to feed this guy to the dogs!”

He sauntered to the classroom door, opened it, and just before exiting smiled and waved to the class; who, for just a moment, were embarrassed for me. The door slammed shut behind him; a final insulting flourish.

I stood there breathless. I was aware that I had just been shown up, and humiliated, in front of the entire class. I gulped hard. Suddenly, a dozen hands shot up. The owner of one of the hands didn’t wait to be called on and shouted out,

“Can I go to the bathroom, too? I have to go! Real bad!”

Order had broken down. “Quiet! I shouted.

I was clearly frustrated. “No one else is going to the bathroom!”

“Why not? You let Tim go! How come he got to go and I can’t? I was in Mrs. Roger’s class too, and I got out late, too! It’s not fair!”

“Fairness has nothing to do with it! You’re supposed to go to the bathroom between classes, not during classes!” I spoke with all the authority I could muster.

“Well, I can’t help it if I have to go! My body doesn’t work on a bell schedule! When I need to go, I need to go!”

Actually, I had to hand it to this kid; he had a good point. “You didn’t have your hand up to go before I let Tim go. You can hold it.”

He shook his head, “Yeah, I guess I can hold it; but only for about 10 minutes or so. I ain’t gonna make it to the end of class. I know it.”

“That’s too bad!” I replied.

“Well you gotta explain to Mr. Ellis, (the Principal) why you let Tim go; but you made me stay and pee my pants!”

“No, problem! I’ll do that.” I said angrily.

“Yes, problem.” he replied. “You’ve got a double standard. Some kids can…”

“Stop it!” I shouted.

“I can’t help it. I gotta go!”

“I said, No. I mean, No!”

“Why? Why are you mad at me? I didn’t do anything. All I asked for was to…”

Suddenly, I cracked, “Go! Go! Get out of here! Hurry up!”

He jumped out of his seat and quickly left the room without any of the antics that Tim had displayed. I was definitely out played, out gunned, out smarted; and for the rest of the year I would pay the price.

Another student shouted out, “Can I go to my locker?”

Another, “What’s for lunch today?”

I felt like a surge of water swirling around the shiny porcelain before being swept down the toilet bowl. This may have been the high point of my first year of teaching. It got far worse, as the class continued to entertain themselves by torturing me, the way a cat toys with its prey, before killing it.


Shutting Down the Machine

March 13, 2010

My last post elicited a passionate response from David Truss advocating that we do more to support young teachers, ANY teachers, for that matter, that take the risks that are involved in transforming teaching and learning.

The educational machine is powerful and it can be unforgiving. A teacher who ignores the status quo will soon learn about ‘institutional homeostasis’. It might come in the form of scorn from their colleagues, admonitions from supervisors and administrators, or in the form of parents complaining because they want the same experience for their children as they and their own parents had as students. My first year teaching I experienced two of the three on the list.

So, what will it take to transform teaching and learning? What will it take to shut down the pleasant hum of the machine that is so good at turning out 20th century students even though we’re entering the second decade of the 21st century?

Leaders with Courage and Commitment!

I think this clip from Norma Rae is both inspiring and informing. In it, her supervisor, security police, and the factory boss himself, try to intimidate her. She gets fired from the job she holds so dear.

Norma is leading from the front, by example. Pushed over the edge, she takes action. She steps forward with no assurance that anyone will stand with her. Norma Rae puts herself on the line.

She is all in!

Whenever I see Norma Rae’s face, and the faces of her co-workers, I see fear and hope co-mingled. It inspires me to take a stand for what I believe in! By stepping forward with all she had, Norma Rae eventually gives others the courage to follow her lead.

When we set about following our hearts and doing what we think is right; we hope that what we are doing works, that other people see that it works, and that everything turns out for the best. Sometimes things work out and, unfortunately, sometimes they do not. We don’t have to look further than the assassination of Martin Luther King to understand that.

Leaders, whether they lead from the classroom or the district office, need to understand that there are powerful forces aligned against change.

So, it is our blessing and our burden to have the seeds of leadership in each of us.

There is no tiptoeing around this thing. Those who truly desire a transformation of educational system will have to endure many of the same trials and tribulations as those who fought and fight for change in other domains. While educational change agents may not endure the physical pain that so many activists experience; it should come as no surprise that some will be intimidated, or refused tenure, or shunned by colleagues.

If we are going to shut down the momentum of the educational machine, if we are going to transform the factory floor, we will need to be “all in”.

Courage and Commitment!

pete


Sonya Woloshen: New Attitudes, New Expectations

March 8, 2010

Sonya Woloshen is a relatively new teacher and she embodies an attitude that I believe is essential for the transformation of teaching and learning. She is fearless, she embraces technology, and she respects her students enough to trust and empower them. Sonya is an advocate for using students’ Personally Owned Devices’ (POD’s) aka cell phones, iTouches, iPods, etc., in her classroom.

David Truss conducted a three-part interview with Sonya and wrote about it eloquently on his Pair a Dimes for your Thoughts blog. The following is from Part Three of the interview.

As you listened to Sonya what was running through your mind? Were you thinking she was naive? or rather, that she was brave? Were you thinking that having an attitude like hers would never work with your kids, in your school? or that it just might be extremely liberating? Were you focusing on the obstacles involved, or the potential benefits?

Whenever someone steps forward to lead it’s interesting to reflect on our own reactions. I’d be interested in reading yours.

For me, Sonya has the ‘can do’ attitude that is so necessary for educational change to take hold. She combines this ‘can do’ attitude with a strong sense of how important it is for students to ‘own’ the learning, ‘own’ the tools, and ‘own’ the rules.

Sonya inspires me and gives me hope that a new wave of educators is coming; educators with new attitudes and new expectations.

pete


One to One Computing: A Daydream

March 1, 2010

I closed the cover of my Asus eee, tucked it into my backpack, and headed off to English class. I didn’t eat much for lunch today. I wanted to see the MIT lecture on Mitosis and Miosis because we were going to be spending some time on this in Science class this afternoon.

Lucky for me, Mrs. Woodruff’s class was just around the corner from the cafeteria where I had just finished lunch.Anyway, I wanted to get there early to ‘text’ Jamie Milledge, who was helping me build out my “Fahrenheit 451” wiki.

farneheit_451.jpg

Jamie would be up by now. I live on the East coast and she goes to school in Torrence, California. She is a major Ray Bradbury fan. We met up about a month ago when I found some of her science fiction writing on the Fan Fiction web page. Turns out she is the same age and studying “451” in her English class the same as me. We FaceBook each other all the time now.

I get to class and whip open my computer.
Jamie wassup?
Getting dressed.
Did you find the movie?
Yeah. Not easy to get.
Great.
What part do we want to use?
I love the RR tracks scene.
Where they all become their favorite books?
Yeah. So cool!
OK. I’ll upload it at lunch today.
You’re the best.

We chat until the class is ready to start.

Mrs. Woodruff is already leaning over a student helping them with whatever project they’re working on.

Last night I searched out some blogs that deal with “451″ and have added them to the RSS feeds in my aggregator. They may come in handy as we go through the book.

“Okay class, you can get into your teams now.”

Mrs. Woodruff speaks over the discussions that have already begun. I don’t know why she feels she has to say this every day because we never wait for her. We’re already in our groups.

Our group project is to build out a vocabulary blog for “451” . We each take a few chapters, find the more difficult words, and look them up online. Usually, when we do this we create a team blog where we post the sentence from the book that contains the word, as well as the definitions of the words. We organize it all by chapter. Here’s the vocabulary blog we did on our last book, “The Outsiders”.

(Courtesy of JIm Coe and Tom Woodward of the Bionic Teaching Blog)

This time, in addition to what we usually do, we decide to add some online photos from Flickr, drag them in Comic Life, and write the words used in funny contexts. Michael, our team leader, is really good at coming up with the funny stuff.

(This example courtesy of Jim Coe and Tom Woodward of Bionic Teaching)

After a bit, Mrs. Woodruff asks us to close our computers and report out on how we are doing. One group has done research on all the books that have been banned over the years. Marcy plugs into the projector and shows the Censorship website they’ve created. They’ve worked with the school library media specialist, and a number of outside organizations who are very anti-censorship. I’m surprised at some of the titles on the list. I copy the URL. I want to check it out when I get to study hall later today.

Another group shows the product they are creating in response to the “451″ WebQuest they were working on.

The other groups plug in to show their particular projects; but Terry’s group gets into trouble because they havn’t done much since the last time they presented. Terry says that they have been doing a lot of the work after school; but they havn’t had an online work session this week because a few of them had late sports practices. Terry’s team always has an excuse. The truth is they put in no effort. They do what they can during free time in school, but they almost never hold group work sessions at night. They’ve got to get themselves a better leader or they’re gonna get creamed at the end of the marking period.

I can’t wait to show the vocabulary site we created. Everyone laughs at Michael’s funny comments that are in the Comic Life bubbles. I also take a moment to show the “451” wiki site that Jamie from California and I have been working on. Believe it or not, Jamie has already uploaded a scene from the movie. I click on it and play a minute or so.

Mrs. Woodruff claps her hands, “Great job! guys. Now, let’s get to our writing projects.”

We all pull our desks back a few feet from the groups we were in so we can work on our own for awhile. I pull up the draft of the paper I have been writing from my virtual locker storage space. I’m working on an essay topic from an old Regents exam. I figure it’s good practice. We write in silence, saving frequently, as we have been taught to do. Mrs. Woodruff walks around giving some individual advice to different folks. I run my paper through the online Writing Evaluator. I like this because it picks up most of the simple mistakes I tend to make when I write. It saves Mrs. Woodruff some time, too.

“Class!” She says. We all look up. She walks to the SmartBoard in the front of the room and taps on it a few times. Up come the notes from last week. She enlarges the words THEME and PLOT.

“I see a number of you are getting theme and plot confused. What is the difference between the theme and plot?”

A few brave souls raise their hands.

“You know what? Rather than doing this verbally, I want you to e-mail me your explanations for homework tonight. Include the basic theme of “451” . I don’t need you to rehash the plot.”

Man, more homework.

Mrs. Woodruff continued, “We’re getting close to the bell, so just a reminder that I will be online for extra help on Thursday from 8:00pm till 9:00pm. Terry, I expect that at least one member of your team should be there. Your team needs lot’s of help.”

The bell rings. I sling my Asus into my backpack and dash out of the room. My science class is at the other end of the building; I’ve gotta hustle.

pete

This is a Re-Post from 2008.

It is a daydream. I’m sure there are many more creative ideas out there. The Asus and other products used in this post are for illustrative purposes only and not an endorsement.

The technology is transparent. The Asus is one of a number of sub-$500, mobile, wireless computers. WIreless access from everywhere in the school. VIrtualized desktops with access to all school applications and files from anywhere, including the home. Appropriate software. Engaged and empowered students AND teachers, learning both in school and outside of school, formally and informally, collaboratively and individually. Learning partners that extend outside the classroom.

Special thanks to Tom Woodward and Jim Coe, two groundbreaking educators from the Henrico schools who are making the daydream reality.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers